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Daily Splash: Howard Tullman calls for realism in education

Howard Tullman

Howard Tullman

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Updated: December 2, 2012 2:10PM

Call me crazy, but I thought making a profit was one of the most important things a business should do.

But when you have a perfect storm of a continued bad economy, collapsing employment opportunities for millions of people (especially new college grads) and a do-nothing Congress stuck in an election year, people need to find someone to blame.

For the last couple of years, the easiest whipping boys (even though they represent only a tiny fraction of overall college enrollments) have been for-profit education companies.

Of course, some of these guys are to quality education what the Olive Garden is to Italian cuisine.

But, there are people doing for-profit education really right. I think our small (but growing) college is a perfect example: Tribeca Flashpoint Academy is a for-profit, digital media arts college where — in an intense, hands-on, cross-disciplinary two-year program — we’re training hundreds of passionate and talented creative kids to get ready for real jobs in the rapidly expanding digital economy. And, frankly, we don’t think our work ends until their jobs begin.

I’m tired of all of the “for-profits” getting painted with the same brush. I don’t want to see the baby (and the right-time, right-place idea of high-end, high-tech vocational training) tossed out with the bathwater.

If we’re going to hold for-profit colleges accountable for real education value and real employment prospects, then we should be demanding the exact same standards and results from the 90 percent of the college marketplace represented by the non-profit schools. Many of those are doing a horrible job of equipping our graduates with the skills, work ethic and training they need today to succeed tomorrow and in the future.

I think we’re finally over the fantasy that everyone in America should (or can afford to) own a home. And, in the same way, it’s pretty clear now — as the rest of the world has known for decades — that not every high school graduate should (or needs to or can afford to) go to an expensive four-year college.

Borrowing tens of thousands of dollars each year from Uncle Sam to finance an “education” with no real connection to or commitment to real employment is an especially nasty way that we’ve let millions of well-intentioned kids and their families mortgage their futures and hitch their wagons to a false dream of future success.

There are plenty of faster, less expensive and more productive ways to prepare our graduates for today’s highly competitive global economy.

Howard Tullman donated his fee for writing this column to PAWS Chicago.

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